Sailing into Gibraltar
One hour before officially visiting Gibraltar, and 3 days after leaving Palma, I forced myself to pull my body and head off the bed and get up on deck. For over 24 hours we endured terrible weather resulting in Force 10 conditions and exhausting sea sickness.
Knowing that land was within site, I used ever bit of willpower to convince my body that I was able to get up, put oilskins on and and make it into the cockpit. My efforts paid off. As soon as I smelled fresh air and felt the coolness on my face, my sickness subsided slightly. Also, the sea state reduced in commotion the closer we got to land.
As evening approached, I could see several cargo ships ,the large and famous ‘rock of Gibraltar,’ and a very lit up Mosque situated along the cliffside. My first words were, ‘Is that a Mosque?’ My husband, Simon, responsponded, ‘Yes – I asked the same question.’
I suppose I was expecting a large rock, apes and loads of boats. I wasn’t expecting a Mosque, the tankers, an airline run-way jetting out into the waterway, loads of industry and several oil tanks.
Upon visiting most destinations you can compare it to somewhere familiar – Gibraltar was different
For the first time and a very long time, I couldn’t compare it to Spain or England or Africa or anywhere. It was the strangest place I’ve ever encountered – and it wasn’t just on our approach to the marina that felt weird. When visiting the town I surveyed the scenery and people and kept saying under my breath, ‘this is such a odd place.’ And when I say ‘odd,’ it’s not that it’s bad, it’s just different.
The high street is filled with English stores like M&S, BHS and Banks like HSBC and Barclays. At first glance you’d think you were in the UK, but at closer examination you’ll see palm trees, European architecture and every nationality in the world. There were Gibraltarians, British, Indonisian, African, Spanish, Americans and Chinese. You name the nationality and it is there! There were a variety of religions too – Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and on and on. And the fascinating things is that it seemed as if everyone mixed comfortably.
While stopping off at one of the newly refurbished playgrounds for my daughter, I spoke with a woman born and raised in Gibraltar. She explained that there is a huge mix of ethnic backgrounds, nationalities and religions and everyone gets on very peacefully.
My experience at every restaurant, shop and service provider was excellent
Everyone seemed very happy to help and eager to have a chat. Not once did I feel unsafe or uncomfortable. I assume crime must me extremely low – there’s no where to go if you’re trying to escape!
Gibraltar is typically not known as a sailor or holiday island although tourism is on the increase due to government initiatives. Most sailors that find their way to Gibraltar make a temporary stop to take advantage of tax free fuel, servicing and/or repair parts.
When fuelling up, we were shocked at the discounted price we received. Rather than a cost of 700 – 800 euros, we paid under 600 to fill our tank up. And the tax free savings for various repair parts definitely brought a smile to my face. When maintaining a yacht you’re either paying for repairs or buying spares to preempt the next breakage! At least in Gibraltar we felt like we were getting a great deal.
The marina is affordable, has great facilities, wonderful staff and a wide variety of restaurants
Our mooring fees are around 500 euros per month with water and electricity charged by a meter. The Queensway Quay Marina has very nice clean facilities, laundry service and several restaurants offering a wide spectrum of food and drinks. The marina attendants are very helpful. When we arrived they took our passports, did all the paperwork and sorted everything out while I was siping my much needed glass of white wine. They helped us dock the boat, get the electricity working and set up the fresh water.
Even though we spent 5 days in Gibraltar we failed to take the cable car to the top, spot a gorilla or visit a beach. We’ll be back for a week before we leave for Malta so I’ll make sure to check out the famous sites. So…before reading my initial pros and cons please consider that I only spent a very limited time in the region.
Pros and Cons of Gibraltar
- Very industrial along the port: tankers, airport, fishing boats, oil refineries, oil tanks
- The area smelled of fuel or perhaps sulpher. It wasn’t a massive smell that was irritating, but there was definitely a constant hint of fuel smell in the air
- Getting in and out of the Spanish border can be a serious problem. At times the Spanish decide to cause massive tailbacks. The relationship between Gibraltar and Spain is not very good so crossing the border could be complicated.
- The water in the marina was filthy. Bags, rubbish and even pooh floating around. Sadly, that’s common around the Med.
- Provisioning wasn’t any cheaper and there wasn’t a massive selection. There’s one grocery store – a Morrisons.
- It’s a small place. After a few days you’ll see everything you can possibly see if you are in site seeing mode.
- There seems to be more cars than people.
- Inside the marina and town centre the scenery is beautiful. When shielded away from the industrial areas, the region is very beautiful.
- The food is excellent – whether we had a quick sandwich or beef wellington we were always very pleased. Furthermore, every restaurant catered for children. Prices of meals varied but overall we felt we got good value for our money spent.
- Tax free fuel, parts, and servicing!
- An eclectic range of people, foods and scenery
- Loads of history. Gibraltar is seeped with all sorts of historical events and figures. Everywhere you look there’s a statue, cannon/gun, plaque or historical building or ruin.
- Great service from everyone.
- Queensway Quay Marina: very protected berths, locked gates, excellent facilities (although they close at night), wide range of restaurants, laundry service, close to town centre, great service.
Overall, I was very impressed by Gibraltar. It’s unlike any other place I’ve ever been. If you’re in the area and deciding whether or not to visit the area, I highly recommend that you do! The people, food, lack of tax and interesting sites are a fantastic experience. During my next visit I’ll take the cable car up the Rock, visit the beaches and see if there’s anything else I can report on. Stay tuned!